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Posted By
Ruby
Yeomans
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It's election time here in Old Blighty. 

We're nearly halfway through a six-week campaign. It's been a memorable one – one candidate has been hit by a banana milkshake (and narrowly avoided a piece of construction debris), while another has been embroiled in a scandal about his access to television channels in the 1990s. And then there is whatever stunt Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey is up to today. 

This is the country's third election in five years, but somehow it feels different. Perhaps it's the (slightly) warmer weather or the sense that there could be significant upheaval. 

When Rishi Sunak declared the snap election on that rainy May evening, he instantly re-ordered the news landscape. 

The election is front page news, every day in pretty much every outlet (except The Daily Mail it seems). We people in public relations need to figure out ways to get our clients into the newscycle. How we do that in the face of a story that is both multi-faceted and constantly changing is a challenge. 

Here, we provide insight from our little Campaign HQ in Cognito's Moorgate office. While we don't have a battle bus, we are able to get a clear overview of what stories are breaking and driving the conversation. 

We work with companies that are in finance, technology and the climate transition. So naturally, we look for story angles that intersect with those more macro-themes. I can summarise the main discussion about each of these quite concisely: Money? We don't have enough. Technology? We'd like some more. The climate transition? Next subject, please. 

A key point in the campaign is the release of manifestos. The long-anticipated nature of this election meant that some parties, like Labour, had already managed to get out nearly every detail. In some ways, that meant it was easier to draft commentary based on what was expected to be announced. But it also meant the story was comparatively less covered. 

The Conservatives under Sunak are aiming for policy-forward coverage, with announcements many days about things not previously discussed. These range from a return to national service to a doubling of child allowance. The parties' X handle typically has said when an announcement is coming and occasionally gives a cryptic tease about what it might be (The creation of a "quadruple lock" on pensions was presaged by three padlocks). At least when you know when something will be announced, it can be easy to ensure experts are ready to write and revise commentary. 

Some companies – and especially industry groups – release their own manifestos about what they would like to see in the next term in Westminster. These tend to be more narrow, as, for example, the Federation of Small Business focused on what exactly would be good for its clientele. This tends to only get trade news coverage unless it contradicts the policy of what's seen as a friendly constituency. (While not exactly a manifesto, a representative saying that strikes would continue in the autumn under a Labour government made significant headway.) 

There's a tension on where exactly to place our focus. We have beat journalists in finance and technology, who have a much more granular understanding of those issues. But they are typically not sent to cover speeches and aren't with the candidates. Coverage is frequently a collaboration between the people who are on the political beat and those specialists. 

We tend to have more success with people we know, but breaking news commentary can be useful if sent to breaking news reporters and desks. Most major British publications have a live blog, and most of these will include snappy commentary. 

On the subject of being snappy, less is pretty much always more here. Fifty interesting words are worth more than 500 dull ones. With more time, people can sift through the original material. They and their audience want to know what matters and whether it's a "good" thing for them. 

Election season is exciting. Plans change, and most days see the press wandering down unexpected alleys. (Did we ever expect to spend five days understanding the rules and protocols behind an award ceremony?)

The unexpected can be a laboratory for approaches. It also may mean a lower success rate than normal. We're used to how to get our clients featured during "Ordinary Time". And the next few weeks will be anything but. 

This article was co-written by Account Director Ruby Yeomans and Director Jon Schubin, who are both based in London